Port Style, fortified, extended barrel aged Estate Syrah
I’ve been making “Port” for a long time. The first batch was in 1978, made from Old Vine Zinfandel. Most of them were made from Zinfandel before I tried our organically grown Estate Syrah and found it better. In Portugal, they use six or more indigenous grapes but it’s almost impossible to find anyone growing those varietals in California.
When wine is made, yeast eat the sugar and turn it into alcohol. Eventually all the sugar is used up and you are left with dry or almost dry wine. To make “Port” you wait until the fermentation has reached a predetermined stage and add good brandy, to stop the fermentation by raising the alcohol level to between 18% and 20%, which kills the yeast. The unfermented grape sugar is retained and you have “Port”.
American winemakers have agreements with European winemakers not to use their place names for wine not made in those places. To be “Port” it must be from Portugal. When the law was passed in 2005 anyone who already had wine on the market called
“Port” was grand fathered. They can still use the name Port. (the same law included “Champagne” and all other place named European wine).
There are three major kinds of Port: Vintage, Ruby and Tawny. Ruby is bottled shortly after it is made. Tawny, according to Portuguese law, must be in the barrel for six years. Vintage can be any age but is usually aged several years. Our Tawny is 55% barrel aged for seven years and 45% barrel aged for 6 years.
Tawny is typically a bit oxidized, brown around the edges and reduced. I’m a fan of extended barrel aging, but I am not a fan of a lot of oxidation. It robs the wine of its fruit and gives the wine a tired quality. Hence the headline, “marching to our own drummer”. Deerfield Tawny has extended barrel aging without a lot of oxidation. It has the complexity and depth that can only come from age and still has the fruit. The barrels were all American oak, mostly from Pennsylvania. American oak accentuates the front palate.
I prefer Tawny as an end of the evening wine, often with a cigar. It is great with dark chocolate. The dark chocolate truffles I make, often available in the tasting room, are flavored with Deerfield Tawny.
55% 2006 Late Pick Fortified Estate Syrah, 45% 2008 Late Picked Fortified Estate Syrah
2006 Syrah picked at 29 Brix, 2008 Syrah picked at 28.5 Brix Finished wine: Alcohol 19%, Residual sugar 5%, Volume: 500mL